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Self-Harm: The Invisible Epidemic

Woman with scars from self-harm | The Chelsea Psychology Clinic

People are often reluctant to talk about or address mental health issues. Over the years, public dialogue and news articles have helped to raise awareness about different types of mental disorders. Although we may now openly talk about celebrities receiving rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addition, that willingness to talk about what used to be a taboo subject took a long time to develop. Now we are gradually working to raise awareness of some of the other serious problems that exist and require treatment. Our private psychiatrist in London helps clients with a huge range of issues but often the biggest hurdle is in making those with mental health problems and their loved ones know what symptoms they should look for and how to get treatment.

One growing area of concern for mental health professionals is the rising number of incidents in which people cause themselves self-harm. This problem can appear at any age but it has become particularly common among children, teenagers and young adults. Parents, teachers and other care-givers need to be aware of this problem so they can help those affected get the help they need.

Out of Sight

Most people who cause themselves self-harm are very good at hiding the evidence. That means that a person near and dear to you could be secretly facing this serious medical problem without you being aware. Don’t take the fact that self-harm is generally hidden from view as a sign that it isn’t serious or it is simply a phase. Self-harm is dangerous to the person’s health and safety now and it can even be deadly. In fact, more than half of the people who commit suicide have a prior history of self-harm. This makes it critical to get help as soon as possible.

Many Forms

There are many ways people can cause themselves self-harm. A common way is to cut, hit, or scratch the skin in order to cause pain and damage. People may throw themselves into objects to cause injury or they may prevent cuts from healing. If you find yourself deliberately hitting your head or another part of your body, that is a form of self-harm.

People may hurt themselves by consuming harmful chemicals or taking large amounts of drugs or alcohol. This may cause people to think that it is simply normal drinking rather than an attempt at self-harm. Those causing themselves self-harm may pick one method of hurting themselves or combine several different types of harm.

Looking for Signs

Many types of self-harm do not readily show up. Others will leave visible marks. One possible sign that someone is causing self-harm can be that they are covering up more than expected. If a child begins to always wear long sleeves and long trousers or skirts, even in hot weather, you should pay attention. This could be a simple fashion choice but if he or she is always covered around you even at home or when going to bed, you could need to investigate. If someone has a number of bruises or other injuries, you should find out why. It could be normal injuries from sports, a sign that the person is being bullied, or an indication that self-harm is a problem. People hiding self-harm can be good at coming up with excuses for injuries but if there is a pattern, there could be cause for concern.

The most important thing is to know that help is available. If you are harming yourself, please contact us for an evaluation or speak with your doctor about what you’re experiencing. If you suspect a loved one has a problem with self-harm, encourage them to seek support.